Photos: Tokyo being billed as ‘Recovery Olympics’ -- but not for all

Next year, the torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics will kick off in Fukushima, the northern prefecture devastated almost nine years ago by an earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent meltdown of three nuclear reactors. They’ll also play Olympic baseball and softball in one part of Fukushima, allowing Tokyo organizers and the Japanese government to label these games the “Recovery Olympics.” However, Futaba is the only one of 12 radiation-hit towns that still remains a virtual no-go zone. Only daytime visits are allowed for decontamination and reconstruction work, or for former residents to check their abandoned homes.

UPDATED ON DEC 14, 2019 03:38 PM IST 12 Photos
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Toshihide Yoshida, a 71-year-old evacuee from the nuclear crisis-hit town of Futaba in Fukushima prefecture, walks out to the backyard of his home to dust off an old family photo in Kazo, Japan. The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics will kick off in Fukushima, devastated almost nine years ago by an earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent meltdown of three nuclear reactors. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Toshihide Yoshida, a 71-year-old evacuee from the nuclear crisis-hit town of Futaba in Fukushima prefecture, walks out to the backyard of his home to dust off an old family photo in Kazo, Japan. The torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics will kick off in Fukushima, devastated almost nine years ago by an earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent meltdown of three nuclear reactors. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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An abandoned elementary school classroom is cluttered with school bags and other belongings left by students as they rushed out after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the nearby Fukushima nuclear power plant. Next year, Olympic baseball and softball will be played in one part of Fukushima, allowing Tokyo organizers and the Japanese government to label these games the “Recovery Olympics.” The symbolism recalls the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which showcased Japan’s reemergence just 19 years after World War II. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

An abandoned elementary school classroom is cluttered with school bags and other belongings left by students as they rushed out after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the nearby Fukushima nuclear power plant. Next year, Olympic baseball and softball will be played in one part of Fukushima, allowing Tokyo organizers and the Japanese government to label these games the “Recovery Olympics.” The symbolism recalls the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which showcased Japan’s reemergence just 19 years after World War II. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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Weeds grow in an abandoned apartment complex. “This recovery Olympics is in name only,” Toshihide Yoshida said. He was forced to abandon Futaba and ended up living near Tokyo. “The amount of money spent on the Olympics should have been used for real reconstruction.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Weeds grow in an abandoned apartment complex. “This recovery Olympics is in name only,” Toshihide Yoshida said. He was forced to abandon Futaba and ended up living near Tokyo. “The amount of money spent on the Olympics should have been used for real reconstruction.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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Yakitory cook Akemi Kumagai works in her shack in Hirono.The number of residents registered in the town has decreased by more than 1,000 since the accident, indicating they are unlikely to return. “It was so sad to see the town destroyed and my hometown lost,” he said, holding back tears. He reflected on family life, the autumn leaves and the comforting hot baths. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Yakitory cook Akemi Kumagai works in her shack in Hirono.The number of residents registered in the town has decreased by more than 1,000 since the accident, indicating they are unlikely to return. “It was so sad to see the town destroyed and my hometown lost,” he said, holding back tears. He reflected on family life, the autumn leaves and the comforting hot baths. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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This year, 4 million tons of those industrial container bags were to be brought into Futaba, and another million tons to Okuma, where part of the Fukushima plant stands. They are to be sorted -- some burned and compacted -- and buried at a medium-term storage facility for the next 30 years. For now they fill vast fields that used to be rice paddies or vegetable farms. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

This year, 4 million tons of those industrial container bags were to be brought into Futaba, and another million tons to Okuma, where part of the Fukushima plant stands. They are to be sorted -- some burned and compacted -- and buried at a medium-term storage facility for the next 30 years. For now they fill vast fields that used to be rice paddies or vegetable farms. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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Former town officials and evacuees Osumi Muneshige, left, walks with Yukimi Itakura as they visit the abandoned town of Futaba. The radiation that spewed from the plant at one point displaced more than 160,000 people. Futaba is the only one of 12 radiation-hit towns that remains a virtual no-go zone. Only daytime visits are allowed for decontamination and reconstruction work, or for former residents to check their abandoned homes. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Former town officials and evacuees Osumi Muneshige, left, walks with Yukimi Itakura as they visit the abandoned town of Futaba. The radiation that spewed from the plant at one point displaced more than 160,000 people. Futaba is the only one of 12 radiation-hit towns that remains a virtual no-go zone. Only daytime visits are allowed for decontamination and reconstruction work, or for former residents to check their abandoned homes. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 14, 2019 03:38 PM IST
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The Olympic torch relay will start in March in J-Village, a soccer stadium used as an emergency response hub for Fukushima plant workers. The relay goes to 11 towns hit by the disaster, but bypasses Futaba, a part of Fukushima that Olympic visitors will never see. “I would like the Olympic torch to pass Futaba to show the rest of the world the reality of our hometown,” Yoshida said. “Futaba is far from recovery.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

The Olympic torch relay will start in March in J-Village, a soccer stadium used as an emergency response hub for Fukushima plant workers. The relay goes to 11 towns hit by the disaster, but bypasses Futaba, a part of Fukushima that Olympic visitors will never see. “I would like the Olympic torch to pass Futaba to show the rest of the world the reality of our hometown,” Yoshida said. “Futaba is far from recovery.” (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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Workers chant slogan during a morning gathering outside the Azuma Baseball Stadium, a venue for baseball and softball at the Tokyo 2020. Nobody perished from the immediate impact of radiation in Fukushima, but more than 40 elderly patients died after they were forced to travel long hours on buses to out-of-town evacuation centers. Their representatives filed criminal complaints and eventually sent former Tokyo Electric Power Company executives to court. They were acquitted. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Workers chant slogan during a morning gathering outside the Azuma Baseball Stadium, a venue for baseball and softball at the Tokyo 2020. Nobody perished from the immediate impact of radiation in Fukushima, but more than 40 elderly patients died after they were forced to travel long hours on buses to out-of-town evacuation centers. Their representatives filed criminal complaints and eventually sent former Tokyo Electric Power Company executives to court. They were acquitted. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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A calendar in an abandoned town hall office shows Friday, March 11, the date of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Olympic organizers say they are spending $12.6 billion on the Olympics, about 60% public money. However, an audit report by the national governments says overall spending is about twice that much. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

A calendar in an abandoned town hall office shows Friday, March 11, the date of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Olympic organizers say they are spending $12.6 billion on the Olympics, about 60% public money. However, an audit report by the national governments says overall spending is about twice that much. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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Osumi, the town spokesman, said many former residents have found new homes and jobs and the majority say they won’t return. Also, Mayor Shirou Izawa described plans to rebuild a new town. It will be friendly to the elderly, and a place that might become a major hub for research in decommissioning and renewable energy. The hope is that those who come to help in Fukushima’s reconstruction may stay and be part of a new Futaba. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Osumi, the town spokesman, said many former residents have found new homes and jobs and the majority say they won’t return. Also, Mayor Shirou Izawa described plans to rebuild a new town. It will be friendly to the elderly, and a place that might become a major hub for research in decommissioning and renewable energy. The hope is that those who come to help in Fukushima’s reconstruction may stay and be part of a new Futaba. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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An employee stocks shelves at a newly opened Aeon supermarket in Namie. The word Fukushima has become globally known, but regrettably the situation in Futaba or (neighboring) Okuma is hardly known,” Izawa said, noting Futaba’s recovery won’t be ready by the Olympics. “But we can still show that a town that was so badly hit has come this far,” he added. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

An employee stocks shelves at a newly opened Aeon supermarket in Namie. The word Fukushima has become globally known, but regrettably the situation in Futaba or (neighboring) Okuma is hardly known,” Izawa said, noting Futaba’s recovery won’t be ready by the Olympics. “But we can still show that a town that was so badly hit has come this far,” he added. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

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Yoshida says the medium-term waste storage sites and the uncertainty over whether they will stay in Futaba or be moved is discouraging residents and newcomers. “Who wants to come to live in a place like that? Would senior officials in Kasumigaseki government headquarters go and live there?” he asked, referring to the high-end area in Tokyo that houses many government ministries.“I don’t think they would,” Yoshida said. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Yoshida says the medium-term waste storage sites and the uncertainty over whether they will stay in Futaba or be moved is discouraging residents and newcomers. “Who wants to come to live in a place like that? Would senior officials in Kasumigaseki government headquarters go and live there?” he asked, referring to the high-end area in Tokyo that houses many government ministries.“I don’t think they would,” Yoshida said. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

UPDATED ON DEC 14, 2019 03:38 PM IST

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